When you’re aiming to get your finances in check, you might think you need to make more income to cover all your bases. However, making the most of the money you already have is a great way to meet your financial goals. Doing more with your money that’s already coming in involves evaluating your current habits, owning up to behavior you’d like to change, and actually making those changes.
We’ve put together some ways you can efficiently use the money you already have to make your finances work for you.
Check Your Bank Accounts
What interest rate are you getting on your checking or savings accounts? If you have an emergency fund set aside in an account, check its interest rate. Or if you’re looking to set a new account up, shop different banks and financial institutions to find a competitive, high-interest savings account. You’ll earn more in a high-interest account, making the little bit of extra leg work worth it.
Then, look at your individual bank accounts to see if there’s any way to save money or lower account fees. If you have multiple checking accounts and only use one or two of them, consider merging them. Some banks charge maintenance fees for accounts that aren’t regularly used, or accounts that dip below a certain amount each month. Are there any other fees you can avoid, like ATM withdrawals, monthly service charges, or automatic bill payments? Be aware of how you’re being charged, and decide which fees are acceptable to you and which you can eliminate.
When you have a retirement savings account, you generally want to maximize its earning potential and minimize tax liabilities. With a traditional IRA, the contributions you make can lower your tax bill, since it reduces your adjusted gross income (AGI) for that tax year. With a Roth IRA, on the other hand, your AGI isn’t reduced since contributions are funded with after-tax dollars. Remember: whichever type of IRA you have, your funds grow tax-free. (You’ll just need to consider a withdrawal strategy later if you’re using a traditional IRA to provide income in retirement.)
Don’t forget that contributions to your 401(k) account with employee matching are made pre-tax, so they’re also tax-deductible. If your employer offers a Roth 401(k) option, your contributions are made with post-tax income. The types of retirement accounts that you have can affect your tax deductions, so consider speaking to your employer or a financial advisor to see how you can further reduce your taxes each year.
Use Credit Cards Wisely
Yes, credit cards can be dangerous when misused, but they are possible to use regularly… without falling into debt. How? By using them to buy only what you can afford to pay when the bill is due. Pay your balance in fulleach and every month to avoid slipping into debt.
Plus, many credit cards use points systems to earn cash back or rewards from purchases. As long as you’re using your credit cards wisely in the first place, these rewards systems are an easy way to earn a little extra money without much effort. That’s making the money you already have work for you.
Evaluate Your Spending
Making the most of your money requires something that can be scary for anyone at any age: being honest about your spending habits. It’s our habits that can cause us to reach for credit cards when we can’t really afford to pay them back, to purchase things that aren’t healthy or a good long-term investment, or to fail to stick to a budget.
So, track where your money is going and what you’re spending it on. Break down how much money is going towards regular expenses, like your mortgage or rent, utility bills, car payments, and so on. Determine how much you’re setting aside for savings or investments. Then, look at your discretionary spending, which includes travel and vacation, entertainment, and going out to eat. Even looking at alternatives for cable and internet can help reduce expenses.
Where can you improve? Which purchases did you regret? Are you spending more than you’re saving? How can you structure your bill payments or cut down on unnecessary spending? This evaluation is just part of sticking to a budget, even if budgeting efforts in the past have been lackluster at best.
Know Your Budget
Tracking expenses is a big part of creating (and sticking to) a budget, but the other part of it is planning ahead and moving forward with your goals. After you evaluate your spending habits and identify how to make the most of the money you do have, build a realistic budget that you can stick to. An interactive, visual system like BudgetingBlocks™ can help, especially if you’re not a fan of budget management apps or spreadsheets.
Remember, it’s not always about making more money. Sometimes, it’s about making the most out of what we have. Plus, when you have a budget that works for you, it’s easier to check in and see how you can better use your money (and stop using it in ways that don’t serve you). When you’re focused on making the most of the money you have, you’ll check in with your finances regularly, which helps everyone stay on track.
Think About the Present… and the Future
And while budgeting systems like the BudgetingBlocks™ are incredibly helpful in getting you to a better place with your everyday finances, you’ll also want to make sure your future plans are properly supported. Guiding Wealth is a financial planning firm that helps individuals, couples, and families build wealth, navigate life’s transitions, and protect their futures with a financial plan made just for them.
If you’re ready to make the most of the money you have with a financial plan, schedule a free 30-minute call with the Guiding Wealth team!